I’m on record as a committed romantic-comedy hater but the truth, like 2009 Meryl Streep/Steve Martin/Alec Baldwin starrer It’s Complicated, is complicated. It’s not that I hate love or even romance--in fact, I remember enjoying the ironically titled 2003 Ewan McGregor/Renee Zellweger starrer Down With Love among others--but I have come to loathe the Hollywood conventions of the romantic-comedy genre and I loathe even more the Bollywood rush to adopt the same. And now those same tired conventions have pushed even further South to Chennai.
Welcome to the hell that is Theeya Velai Seiyyanum Kumaru.
“Chick flicks” are bad enough but I find romantic-comedies centered on a male protagonist to be doubly loathsome. An army of schlubby, 30-something, whiny Zach Braffs just waiting for the right (smoking hot) woman of their dreams to come along and tenderly usher them into adulthood--by which I mean the Ms. “Smoking Hot” Right takes over from mommy and the men reveal themselves to be idiotic American television commercial husbands who can’t microwave popcorn without direct wifely supervision or they’ll burn down the entire neighborhood.
The husband cannot figure out how to purchase new socks (or whatever) and the wife shakes her head with an exasperated but loving look generally reserved for a small child caught taking a crap in the backyard instead of her potty. Oh, those men! Always acting like imbeciles with the emotional capacity of a teaspoon, ammirite, ladies?! I’m surprised we let men do anything but I suppose we must keep up their self-esteem, the poor dears.
But spoiler alert! Idiot husbands aren’t just for selling yogurt! That exasperated but loving look is exactly how Theeya Velai Seiyyanum Kumaru ends. Just swap out Zach Braff and swap in India’s Zach Braff--Siddharth.
Sid plays Kumar, just an average, normal guy working an IT job who can’t get married because his family only do love matches and he refuses to fall in love because some girl was mean to him in elementary school one time. All this changes when a smoking hot babe with no personality or interests (Hansika) takes a job at his workplace. Sid falls for The Babe immediately (because, you know, “love”) but he thinks his chances with her are hopeless after he spies office superstud George (Ganesh Venkatraman) making his move on her.
Now, George has some unbeatable advantages such as taking some care in his personal appearance, having confidence in himself, and actually talking to women instead of just creeping on them and creating imaginary relationships in his own head. Basically, Kumar is so screwed that he has to go pay a visit to the Love Guru--Mokia (Santhanam, the only bright spot in the entire film.) Mokia, who seems to have been airlifted in from a better film, comically instructs Kumar in the arts of the Pickup Arist and then sets him free. Despite The Babe’s best efforts at resisting the flow of the plot, she gets caught up in it and starts dating Kumar.
Something of a monkey wrench is thrown into the works when it’s revealed that The Babe is actually… MOKIA’S SISTER! Instead of drawing the obvious conclusion that, hey, maybe he shouldn’t be teaching men to scam on women because they are people not just babes, Mokia decides that he just doesn’t want anybody dating his sister and so he tries to break them up, eventually succeeding when it’s revealed to The Babe that Kumar had only won her attention through a series of complicated plots including spreading malicious gossip around the office about her dating life.
And here was the sticking point for me: if Kumar and Mokia learned their lessons and apologized properly I might have forgiven some of the vile shenanigans that went on earlier in the film. If Kumar and The Babe had shared some chemistry or anything to make me think theirs was truly a love match, I might have forgiven Kumar’s constant stream of douchebaggery. Unfortunately, the men learn no lessons and the couple share no chemistry and the whole thing ends with The Babe giving in and Kumar getting rewarded for acting like a total tool for the past two and half hours.
Of course, the idiot-hero is not a new invention by any means but this UTV-produced Hollywood-style idiot-hero is just way more obnoxious than the Shammi Kapoor doofus type who romped through 1960s films. It’s not just nostalgia. The push for “realism” even in genres that were previously driven by fantasy does not lead to films that are true-to-life, it leads to films just begging to be nitpicked for plot holes. (I mean, does Kumar never show a picture of the girl he’s stalking to Mokia even once?!) Santhanam's scenes were far and away the most enjoyable in the film not just because Santhanam is hilarious but because he played his character like he was in a fantastical-comedy film rather than the mundane rom-com surrounding him.
Stupidity, as well as out-and-out asshattery, can be enjoyable if the setting is a fantastical one. Ridiculous disguises, complex Rube Goldberg-esque schemes, evil slicksters played by Pran, Crimemaster Go Go, the wonder that was Chhota Don... in one of these fantastical films, if an unmarried 30-something hero falls in love at first sight with the heroine, it’s no less ridiculous than the hero beating up 50 guys at once and we can accept it. But in one of these Hollywood-style rom-coms, I’m more likely to believe that an unmarried 30-something hero who “hates” women and romance should end up paired with his comedian rather than a smoking hot 20-something babe. Is this really what love and romance come down to in “reality”? Seeing a hot babe at the office and “hilariously” sexually harassing her until she gives in and gives up her whole life to get married?
I’m not going to pretend I know anything about arranged marriages but I do find the contrast in films interesting. Is marriage the joining of two people or two families? For romantic love or for partnership? And do we all really know what’s best for ourselves or without family influence do we just drift around and rely on flim-flam artists and newspaper advice columns to provide romantic help? Kumar’s backstory specifically had him with a family tradition of love matches, I suppose to explain why his sisters hadn’t just told him to grow up already and hooked him up with a suitable girl.
Is this what passes for modern love?